McLaren reserve river Lando Norris could still make Formula One debut this season despite Toro Rosso setback

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Lando Norris was close to joining Toro Rosso.

McLaren have left the door ajar for their teenage reserve driver Lando Norris to become Britain’s youngest Formula One debutant this season.

It emerged before the Canadian Grand Prix that Norris, 18, has been approached by Red Bull‘s junior team Toro Rosso to race for them for the remainder of the campaign.

McLaren blocked the proposed loan move because Toro Rosso wanted the deal to extend into 2019. The British team’s plans for next year are still undetermined, and they may yet call on Norris to step up to their race team if Fernando Alonso, who is 37 next month, leaves at the end of the season, or Stoffel Vandoorne is released.

Zak Brown, McLaren’s CEO, is, however, keen for Norris to gain experience before he is awarded a full-time seat, and did not rule out the option of a return to the negotiating table with Toro Rosso.

“If there was an opportunity for Lando to gain experience then that’s something we would consider,” said Brown when asked if he would be interested in loaning Norris to Toro Rosso this season.

“Lando is a McLaren driver. He has a bright future here, but we do not have an interest in letting Lando go anywhere on a long-term deal.”

Norris, from Glastonbury in Somerset, has already been earmarked as the next Lewis Hamilton after he won last year’s Formula Three series.

The teenager holds a 27-point lead in this season’s Formula Two championship, the feeder series to F1, and won impressively on his debut in Bahrain in April.

Norris is held in high regard by those at McLaren, but while he is under consideration for a full-time drive, they are wary of thrusting the youngster into the limelight prematurely.

Toro Rosso are interested in Norris replacing Brendon Hartley – the under-performing New Zealander who was given the all clear in a Montreal hospital on Sunday night following his 170mph crash with Lance Stroll.

Hartley’s opening-lap accident with the Canadian teenager was one of few flashpoints in a race won by Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton finished only fifth to fall one point behind his Ferrari rival in the standings following a weekend to forget for the defending champion and his Mercedes team.

“My mind is not weak and I am still here to win,” Hamilton said. “I still believe we can win the championship.
“I have got complete confidence in my guys and I am putting my energy towards them. If you look across the tennis net, and you think I might lose this, then you have already lost.

“I don’t look at any driver and think I might lose to that person, but instead how I can beat them and how can I be better. I am going to keep doing that until I die.”

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Four errors which have cost Lewis Hamilton so far this season

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Lewis Hamilton’s championship defence has been littered with a series of mistakes by his Mercedes team.

Here, we look at the errors which have cost Hamilton at four of the seven rounds this term – the most recent of which saw him surrender the title leadership to Sebastian Vettel.

Australia

Hamilton was on course to win the opening race with ease, but a timing glitch on the Mercedes pit wall during a virtual safety car period enabled Vettel to snatch victory from the Briton.

Bahrain

At the next race, Hamilton started only ninth after he was penalised with a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. He recovered to finish third, but lost further ground to winner Vettel in the title race.

China

Mercedes were slow to react to a late safety car in Shanghai by failing to bring Hamilton in for new tyres. Daniel Ricciardo, who did stop for fresh rubber, won, while Hamilton was fortunate to finish fourth after Max Verstappen crashed into Vettel.

Canada

Unlike their rivals, Mercedes failed to bring their planned engine upgrade to Canada. Hamilton encountered problems with his old engine in the race while his team also botched his strategy and saw their driver lose places to Ricciardo. Team boss Toto Wolff also admitted they did not bring enough sets of the faster hypersoft tyre compound with them to Montreal which contributed to Hamilton qualifying only fourth. He finished fifth in the race and surrendered his title lead to race winner Vettel.

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Sublime Sebastian Vettel and other takeaways from the Canadian GP

niall 10/06/2018
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Lewis Hamilton was left to rue a Mercedes engine problem after he lost the lead of the Formula One championship to Sebastian Vettel in Canada on Sunday.

Vettel ruled from lights-to-flag at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in an emphatic display as he crossed the line ahead of Valtteri Bottas with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third.

But Hamilton, so often the master here in Montreal, had to settle for fifth on a weekend to forget for the defending champion and his team.

Here, we take at the key takeaways from Canada.

Vettel fights back

The German can leave Montreal with plenty of positives after sealing his third win of the season and also, significantly, he re-takes the championship lead from Lewis Hamilton.

The 30-year-old led a consistent Ferrari performance in Canada, between his superb win and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen crossing the line in sixth.

Staying on top for the entire race, he didn’t put a foot wrong around a circuit that is renowned for Mercedes’ dominance over the last few years.

With two weeks until the championship rolls into France, the four-time world champion is slowly stamping his authority after sub-par performances in China, Baku and Barcelona. Hamilton’s shown his resilience this season, so can Vettel follow suit?

Hamilton off colour

Not one of those race Sundays we are normally accustomed to seeing the Briton light up. He was not in the finest mood and sounded low on the radio all afternoon.

Slow across the practice sessions, the Briton was out-qualified by Vettel and his teammate Valtteri Bottas, resulting in P4 on the grid.

But apart from taking the jump on Raikonnen after his pitstop on lap 18, the 33-year-old struggled to fire and finished fifth – only the second time he has failed to make the podium in the first seven races.

Needs to up his performance in France to prevent the German from stretching the lead in the title race.

Industrious Verstappen

Starting from P3, the Dutchman produced a sublime performance for his second podium of the season.

The 20-year-old has endured a frustrating campaign to date, with fifth, sixth and ninth place finishes adding to his two retirements in Bahrain and Baku.

But the Monaco resident looked magical in Montreal, pushing Bottas hard for large spells of the race as he yearned for second place.

With his teammate Daniel Ricciardo finishing fourth ahead of Hamilton, it proved to be a successful weekend for Red Bull.

Alonso 300 and out

After five top-eight finishes, the Spaniard was forced to retire on his 300th grand prix meeting after suffering exhaust failure.

Sitting 11th, it looked like the two-time world champion was on the verge of challening for another top-10 finish for McLaren but a loss in power meant he would have to retire on lap 51.

In his second successive retirement due to a mechanical issue, the question is where does Alonso go from here?

The Oviedo native will turn 37 in July and if this is his swansong season in F1 then it’s difficult to argue what he throws his hand to in his free time.

He will race in Le Mans next weekend, in a potential winning Toyota team. That must push him another step closer to Indy 500 in 2019.

Hamilton and Vettel may go down as the most successful drivers of our era, but put Alonso in an identical car and he’d be the same potent force.

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